Why did you choose Norway as your study destination?
My Bachelor course in nursing lasts 4 years, and it includes two components; theoretical and practical. The practical component is typically carried out in hospitals or in health centres.
Since a young age, I have always been curious about the cultural differences between countries and cities. To add on, I became very interested in the topic “Multicultural Care” during the event called International Congress organized by my class. My curiosity, coupled with the fact that completing the practical component of the course in my home country Portugal would not allow me to experience new cultures, lead me to apply for the Erasmus international exchange programme.
Of all the countries that I could choose, Norway was the most attractive to me, given it is modern, rich, renowned for its quality of life and public health system, as well as its natural landscapes and unique architecture.
How has your impression of Norway changed?
I was flabbergasted when I arrived!
Oslo is a really calm and organized capital unlike other capital cities I have visited so far. As for the people, they initially struck me as being unapproachable. Yet, every time I asked for help someone would help me out willingly.
All of my patients were friendly, and what really stood out was that they really felt responsible for their own health. This stands in stark contrast to my home country, where most people do not really take care of their own health and well-being. On top of that, the patients also took an interest in me and asked me a lot of questions about my background. I felt very welcomed!
What are the main differences between Norway and Portugal?
When it comes to social life, Portuguese are used to making friends quite easily. We go out a lot, whether it is to drink a cup of coffee or go to the clubs. We´re friendly all the time and we truly just want to have a good time.
In contrast, Norwegians did not seem as outgoing as Portuguese, and seemed as if they did not want to be bothered. Perhaps they take their personal space very seriously. For example, when Norwegians wait at a bus stop, you will most likely find huge gaps between each person. However, when it is time to hit the clubs, things take a 180degree turn! They suddenly become very sociable.
In terms of culture, Norwegians typically move out of their parents` house and start to be financially independent at the age of 18, which I think is great. We could not do this in my country, where it is impossible to juggle both a part-time job and studies. Due to this, we leave our parents` home at a much later age of around 25 years.
Another big difference is the definition of lunch in Norway. In contrast with a warm meal one would typically eat in Portugal, Norwegians survive on salad or toast.
What do you think is the best aspect with Norwegian education?
If I had to mention one thing, I would say that my colleagues in Norway really encouraged me to reflect on what I have learnt on the spot, and thereafter to share my thoughts with them. This was different to my experience in Portugal, where there was hardly any time to reflect on what we have learnt because we try to fill the day learning as many new things as possible. There was not much time for discussion.
I believe that both methods have their benefits, but it would probably be best to have a combination of both approaches.
In what way do you think your stay here will influence your career opportunities?
Nursing is one of the most complex jobs I know of due to its social component. In order to be a good nurse, one must understand the biological, psychological, social and spiritual dynamics of our patients.
I believe that the more nurses are exposed to the different cultures, the better they will likely succeed in an increasingly interconnected world. In particular, the care provided by the nurse will be more complete, personalized and adapted to the patient that stands in front of him.
I hope that the resilience and adaptability that I have developed in Norway will be valued in my growth as an adult and a competent nurse, and valued in seeking employment in the future.
What surprised you the most?
Almost everything surprised me.
I really liked the Norwegian lifestyle: they are sporty, and are often in close contact with nature. On the other hand, I was shocked by things such as the accommodation, the cuisine, and alcohol prices. Oh, and the binge drinking as well.
What did you miss the most?
I think what I missed the most was Portuguese food and beer.
Portuguese culinary is rich in flavour and in spices, and the way we combine and cook is almost unique. In Norway, I mostly ate “typical” Norwegian meals, such as taco, fish balls, Grandiosa (frozen pizza), brown cheese, as well as reindeer. I do miss the Norwegian salted codfish that we cooked using
What have you appreciated the most?
I would say what any Portuguese would say: the snow! I was really lucky to see snow in Oslo. It was the first time I ever saw snow in my life. Snow is a rare occurrence in Portugal.
What will you miss the most when you leave?
My friends. I still talk to them but I don’t feel that that’s enough. I wish I could visit them again.
One Norwegian couple I met did everything they could so that I would feel comfortable. They made such a huge effort for me, and I wish I could repay them for their generosity. I also met a Greek girl whom I hope to keep in touch with. I have learned so much from her.
Their friendship is the Viking treasure that I took home from Norway.